Isa Gunther looks at Christopher Eccleston's post-Doctor Who role in Heroes.
Chris Eccleston has been back on the Whovians' radar a lot over the past few months. From several television movies and series to Thor:the Dark World, to his discussions about being bullied and being a bully when he was young, and now his recent admission that he wishes he had stayed on Doctor Who longer than one series, Eccleston has made his mark on the fandom once again. Whovians, however, are far from the only fandom on which Eccleston has left an impression. Almost immediately after Doctor Who, Eccleston did a remarkable guest appearance on the first series of the American show Heroes.
Eccleston's “Claude Rains” was a loner, truly an “invisible man,” petty thief, and strangely enough, a lover of pigeons. While his character only appeared in the back nine episodes of the series (and first only appeared as a laughing image in the lead character's fever-dreams), he played a pivotal role in the end, acting as a kind of rough mentor-figure to the show's main Hero, Peter Petrelli. In Claude, we see hints of the past Doctor; Eccelston goes so far as to use his Doctor's catchphrase, calling the fact that Petrelli can see him “fantastic,” though this time clearly in a sarcastic sense. Claude also retains some of Nine's general attitude, though where Nine could be happy at times, Claude carried with him a general disdain for humanity (see Nine's “just this once, everybody lives!” and Claude's “people suck, friend. Never forget that” as a classic example).
Eccleston wasn't a sure casting for Claude Rains, though. Rumors and early reports from Heroes mention him as being on the short list to be cast as Sylar, the series villain. There are different stories as to why he was cast as Claude instead of Sylar, with some saying that he “didn't quite understand where they were going with Sylar.” However, a source close to the show recently told this writer, "I do believe he was on some of the early casting lists, but may have been unavailable...we had to work within his schedule, so we had to write him out so that he could take another job. We would have loved for him to be on the show a lot longer."
On the topic of Heroes, it seemed that Eccleston quite enjoyed his time working on the show, as well as his character. Eccleston is known for deliberately not reprising roles. But something about Claude very nearly had him coming back for appearances in the mini-series, Heroes Reborn. The writers had intended to bring Claude back in the mini-series, and Eccleston, contrary to his previous actions, was more than willing to return to the role, however briefly. Regrettably, personal matters and other commitments prevented Eccleston from returning.
Though Christopher Eccleston is probably best known to modern audiences as the Ninth Doctor Who, since leaving the show, he has continued to perform in a wide variety of television shows, plays, and films. A man of great talent, he has made his mark in many fandoms and many peoples' minds and hearts.